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Politics

Jordan, Egypt Rip Turkey’s Plan to Open Ghost Town on Cyprus

July 29, 2021

He doesn't care, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plan to further reopen the abandoned ghost town resort of Varosha – which has stood empty since a 1974 invasion of Cyprus – is drawing a line of denunciations.

After Israel jumped in, so too now have Jordan and Egypt in criticizing the plan, with the United Nations Security Council reluctantly also doing so over objections from the United Kingdom, the island's former Colonial ruler, which favors Turkey.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the UK and UN are leaning toward Turkey and that he is considering vetoing European Union plans that would also be lenient on Turkey, which is drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters.

But he has previously been critical only to back off getting tougher and hasn't said whether he would move against the UK and its military bases on the island even while complaining the British are on the side of Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots.

Greece, Cyprus and regional ally Jordan called for a "comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem" after Turkey said it would reopen Varosha and wants worldwide recognition for the isolated occupied northern third.

Leaders of the three countries, speaking at a summit in Athens, were responding to Erdogan's announcement for the fenced-off resort where last year he opened part of a beach, also to condemnation he ignored.

A joint statement after the meeting said the countries were committed to a "comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international law,” an approach that has gone nowhere for decades.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the recent developments on Cyprus "deplorable" but Greece still supports a bid by Turkey, which began in 2005, to join the European Union, to which the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member.

He said that the summit between the three leaders "reflects the commitment of our countries to promote peace stability and prosperity in our wider region,” reported Agence France-Presse of the gentle diplomatic tactic.

The EU, of which Cyprus is a member state, condemned "Turkey's unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements" and demanded a reversal of the decision but Erdogan paid it no mind.

Erdogan vowed that "life will restart in Varosha" during a controversial visit to mark 47 years since the invasion that split Cyprus and that he no longer wants "We are nations that share the Eastern Mediterranean (region) and I think we will continue to play a vital role and look for wider cooperation," King Abdullah II of Jordan said, the report added.

Separately, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the move by Turkey was a violation of a decades-old UN resolution stipulating only the original owners – mostly Greek-Cypriots – of properties stolen in Varosha after the invasion and occupation could reclaim them.

The Middle East news site Al-Monitor said Egypt called on Turkey to follow the resolution – it didn't – and to stop provocations, but that didn't happen either as the international community is left to issuing press releases and tweets.

New hardline Turkish-Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar, who said after winning election in October, 2020 with Erdogan's help that he would do whatever he was told, had said that a 3.5 square-kilometer (1.35 square-mile) section of Varosha would revert from military to civilian control.

This came before a parade to mark the 47th anniversary of the invasion was held, attended by Erdogan, with Turkey having tense relations with Egypt, which wants to work with Greece and Cyprus over energy exploration plans.

In December, 2013, Egypt signed with Cyprus a maritime boundary demarcation agreement and a similar agreement with Greece in August 2020 but Turkey is claiming parts of the same Continental shelf.

Mohammed Soliman, a Senior Associate at McLarty Associates, a strategic advisory firm based in Washington, told Al-Monitor that Turkey backs a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation in Cyprus and rejects a two-state idea.

Soliman said, "Egypt perceives the partial reopening of Varosha as a new Turkish move to test the limits of regional powers in the Mediterranean."

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